Now that the peaches are put up, it is time to turn to those bushels full of tomatoes. Nothing like home grown tomatoes. You cannot keep them more than a few days before the sugars and acids declare war, and as with most civil wars the fungus win. So, time for the charge of the light-tomato!
When we first started homesteading, Linda’s concept was that she did not want to deal with anything more complicated that a tomato. That first Fall, one of the local boys asked if Linda canned deer meat. No, she thought, I best start with tomatoes. However, not having grown up in the country, she did not come with the genetics for canning, nor the attentive grandmother to guide her along the way. So, Amazon.com offered a variety of books on preserving. She hoped to rent-a-grandmother, but settle for some advice from neighbors and co-works who had lots of gardening experience.
By the way, if you ask someone out here “Do you have a garden?”, you are implying vegetables.
If you want to know about flowers, you have to ask, “Do you grow flowers”. Of course, every man has the pride of his ride-on law mower, so you need not even ask for clarification when he say, “I’m mowing Saturday”. That implies a 3 to 4 hour joy-ride on his mower. The appropriate question is, “Is that a zero-turn?”, which implies high status in ride-on mowers.
August is the month of tomatoes, the red to yellow variety. These can be tiny currants to grapes to soft-ball sized globes of mouth-watering tanginess. Tomatoes, hybrids to heirlooms. Do not bother growing anything that might show up in the store. This is part economics and part flavor. Agri-business can grow “bullet-proof” fruits (our friend,
Jock’s, terminology) for pennies under what we would pay for seeds. These are not much good, other than for practice on the golf driving range. Rather, grow something that is some gorgeous pallet of sun-shine, and about as delicious as liquid gold. Put is a few plants and you will be out each morning to bring in the harvest for the day or to store up for your day off canning-event. A few years back, I worked with a 94 year old man who wanted to get out of the hospital so that he could return to tending to his 40 tomato plants. He took his home-grown tomatoes to local nursing homes to give to residents “who were really old.” May we all have such an ambition, and giving heart at 94!
Putting up whole, skinned tomatoes, might seem to be the easiest use of 30 lbs of tomatoes every few days. But, after learning the basics, Linda branched into other processed options: soups, V-7 juice, BBQ sauce, salsa, etc. These use not only tomatoes, but several other vegetables, which we have in abundance this time of year: peppers, onions, okra, etc. Get up early to start this process of cleaning, slicing and dicing, stewing, straining, cooking down, water-bath canning, cooling, and eventually taking down for storage on the canning shelves. You will be exhausted by the end of the day, but this is the kind of exhaustion that brings on sleep easily in the cool Fall evenings, until you wake to start the next batch the next morning. What? Raspberries are coming in!